Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of NHL training camp.
Name/Position: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, defenseman
Salary: $4.25 million
Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 ($4.25 million cap hit)
2013-14 year in review: Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic went from being labeled as one of the most underrated NHL defensemen in the league to simply one of the best, after he was a part of Team Canada’s dominant performance at the Olympics in Sochi.
That was no surprise to anyone who had been watching him in San Jose on a regular basis, and Vlasic is now arguably the Sharks’ most indispensable player. The team missed him late in the first round series with Los Angeles, after a hit from Jarret Stoll knocked Vlasic out for the final two games of the Sharks' pratfall.
In 81 regular season games last season, Vlasic posted five goals and 19 assists for 24 points and a +31 rating, tied for ninth in the NHL.
2014-15 outlook: Vlasic finished 12th in voting for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, but never realistically had a shot to win the award due to his lesser point production when compared to guys like Duncan Keith and Shea Weber.
That could change. Vlasic finished just third on his own team in time on ice by a defenseman due to his rarely being on the power play, but he could get more of an opportunity with a man advantage this season, thereby padding his offensive numbers. One of the more confident guys in the dressing room, Vlasic would surely welcome that opportunity, and he deserves it.
In the defensive zone, there’s no reason to believe Vlasic won’t be just as effective as he has been the last few seasons. He always seems to be in the right position, always seems to make the right decision with the puck, and his passes are almost always tape-to-tape. As Mike Babcock said during the Olympics: “He’s hard, he’s smart, he skates, he moves the puck and he’s safe.”
He’s also durable. Although Vlasic’s playoff run was cut short, the defenseman skated in 217 straight games before voluntarily sitting out on April 11 vs. Colorado in a game that meant nothing in terms of the standings for the Sharks. At 27-years-old and with four years left on his contract, Vlasic will continue to be a mainstay on the Sharks’ blue line for a long, long time.